Someone To Love
“All right,” I say. It’s impossible to not give in to her eventually. “I’ll eat. But then you have to promise to go get us some drinks.”
“Deal,” Antonia says, turning back to the appetizers.
We load our tiny plates with spinach and goat cheese tartlets, scallops and clams, and toasted bread topped with thyme-roasted tomatoes, then head over to a secluded cocktail table at one side of the deck. Both of us pig out on the appetizers like neither of us has never eaten before. The food tastes heavenly. I try not to think about the calories.
“I’ll get us some bubbly,” Antonia says, polishing off her last tartlet and setting down her plate on a table. “I’ll bring you something strong.”
I think about joining Antonia, but I figure this is a good time to gather my thoughts and to check whether LeFeber has shown up yet. And to figure out what I want to say to Zach when I finally see him.
As Antonia disappears to the other end of the room, I note the yacht’s classy decor. The room is lined with white-cloth tables strung with lights. Along the outer tables are double rows of windows strung with sparkling lights too. The view of the harbor is magnificent. The ships are soaked in a lavender blanket of descending night. A few yachts are cutting slowly through the water like graceful swans. It’s perfect.
Looking at the harbor reminds me of Sam, which makes me feel a little pang of guilt for ditching him tonight. As a kid, I always used to come here with him and his older brother, James, to go sailing. When James passed away last year, Sam asked to meet by our special bench just across the marina, where we still go to talk alone.
I held him while he cried. We kissed. Only once.
It scared me. I didn’t want to have feelings for my best friend. And Sam never talked about it afterward. So I kind of just assumed that he wasn’t really interested after all. It was just part of his grief from losing his brother at such a young age.
I look around and slowly start to recognize some faces even though I don’t really know them personally. The yacht is swarming with teenage and twentysomething Hollywood actors and several small groups of adults. Crew members. Producers. Agents. Many of them are from the show Sisters & Mothers, about two women who fall in love and move in together. Each of the mothers on the show has a teenage daughter. Hilarity ensues when they all move in with each other. Zach plays one of the daughters’ love interests, which is why I lock myself in my bedroom and watch every Thursday night. It’s pretty good. He’s not in every episode, but I watch the show weekly anyway. A couple of times, Zach has played guitar. He can sing really well too, which I love.
There’s something so intriguing about creative men.
I expected more students from school to be here, but there’s only a small group of Zach and Jackson’s close circle of friends who have never given me the time of day. They probably don’t even recognize me. It’s pretty dark. Some people are dancing, and just about everyone is drinking. Antonia hasn’t come back, and I think about going to find some champagne, but I want to feel empty. In control. This is where I wanted to be all week.
This is my last night to let loose before the cameras start rolling.
Though Dad’s upcoming campaign announcement keeps nagging at me with all the attention that’s going to be on our family soon, I’m not going to let that ruin my night. I mean, yeah, he’s still the Speaker of the House for a little bit longer, but that’s old news. No one’s going to be paying attention to me until after the announcement. Right?
I wait for ten minutes, pretending to check my phone, before I accept that Antonia has ghosted me. I should have known. She’s always been that way. It’s not that she’s trying to ditch me. She’ll just get caught up in a conversation, meet some new people and disappear for an hour.
If she’s gone, I figure I might as well look around for LeFeber. Except there’s one problem. LeFeber is notoriously protective of his image. There are only a couple of pictures of him online. They’re pretty old, from his time in New York during the ’80s. All I know, then, is that LeFeber must be at least middle-aged and his hair’s sort of red. If he hasn’t dyed it. It’s not a lot to go on, but I figure I’ll try anyway.
I nonchalantly wander around the deck, looking for someone who might be LeFeber, and for Felicity, who might have seen him recently. I don’t see her or anyone who fits LeFeber’s description. He might not even be here for all I know. It seems kind of silly for a world-class artist to attend a teen actor’s boat party, even if it’s an action star’s boat.
As I’m about to head down to the lower deck, one of Zach’s friends waves me over to a group with bottles in their hands. It’s Morgan Dunn, one of the stars from Sisters & Mothers. She plays the dark-haired sister, Abby, whom I connect with because she’s the one always pointing out the unfairness in every situation.
When I walk over, Morgan grabs my hand. “Who are you?” she asks, smiling. “I just love your dress, everything about you.”
“I’m Liv,” I say, trying not to sound too shy. Even though she’s being nice, I feel uncomfortable. I really wish I hadn’t eaten those appetizers. “I know Zach.”
“From his school?”
“God, I hated school,” says the guy next to her. “Never got the point.”
I recognize Frederico Fontes right away. He’s on Style Wars. And since it’s a reality show that makes a ton of money for the networks, he’s always traveling with the cast around the world to major fashion events. I can’t imagine him going to school, or wanting to. I want to talk to him about my love of art and how I want to go to one of the big art schools, but he’s already walking away from the conversation.
“Ignore him,” Morgan says. “He’s always a jerk when he’s in town.” She leans in to me so close that she drunkenly brushes my shoulder. “I think he hates traveling all the time, and I mean, I don’t blame him—it does get old.”
“Oh,” I say, “I’m sure.” But I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve gone from here to DC many times, but that doesn’t really count. It’s not for my job.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. But you never get to stay in one place long enough to get to know someone, ya know? Never long enough to fall in love.”
How could anyone not fall for Morgan? She’s funny, talented and beautiful. Even famous. I’m about to say so when a woman across the room wearing a cherry-red dress and strappy heels gets her attention by waving a napkin in our direction.
“Excuse me,” Morgan says. “That’s my agent and my signal. There’s a director I wanna talk to. Steven Weir. You know him, right? Wish me luck!”
Just like that, Morgan is caught in another whirlwind of people. I float away from the small crowd, wishing I could find Antonia, and end up running into a guy I recognize as Zach’s sidekick on the show. Michael Louis-Kroll. He’s always doing something goofy in contrast with Zach’s character.
“I like your character on Sisters & Mothers,” I say.
He lets out a sort of snort, like someone poked him in the stomach. “You mean, you like how I’m constantly getting steamrolled and taking it like a champ?”
“I didn’t mean it like that. Seriously.”
“Of course you did.” He’s giving me a smug squint.
He must be totally drunk.
“Aren’t you playing the character that way on purpose?” I ask.
He thinks. Swirls his drink. “What’s your name?”
“Liv,” I say, realizing I don’t even need to ask for his and he knows it. Even though my father is third in line for the presidency, a lot of people don’t know his name. My family is important. They have prestige. But we’re not exactly famous.
“Okay, Liv. You’re the director. It’s your show. How would you have me portrayed? Would you be sort of shallow, catering to the whims of mass television by giving the show a requisite punching bag? Or would you do something different?”
The guy standing next to him thinks his buddy is getting out of line. “Michael,” his friend says. “Take it easy. She was just trying to compliment your work.”
This time I interrupt. If he wants to test me, I’ll rise to the challenge. There’s nothing more that I hate than when a guy talks to a girl like she’s ridiculous for having an opinion. I hold up a hand to Michael’s friend. I don’t need his chivalry. “No, no. I got this,” I say, feeling a burst of confidence as I examine Michael. He’s grinning like he’s testing me, like he wants to see what I’m made of. “I think if I were the director, I’d want an actor to challenge my thinking. I’d be open-minded to new ideas, fresh takes on characters.”
He rolls his eyes. “Right.”
“No, really,” I say, wanting to drive my point home and to show Zach’s friends that I can hold my own. “I’d want actors who can explore character. Shake up the show. Shake the audience. Pull in the viewers by showing a range of emotions. A character might start out like yours, just a throwaway punch line, but I’d imagine a greater arc over the course of the show, with the character becoming more serious and complex in the end.”
Michael’s buddy starts cracking up. “She got you, fam.”
I don’t know where the surge of confidence came from—maybe I’m not as socially awkward as I thought. Maybe I can think on my feet.
Before Michael can say anything and turn the conversation into awkward silence, I follow Morgan’s lead and excuse myself. “Sorry, boys, but I have to run. It was nice meeting you.”
“That girl can hang,” Michael says as I walk away. “Who is she?”
I’m laughing to myself, weaving through the people, when I feel the familiar buzz of a text through my clutch. I look at my phone. At first I think the text is going to be Sam telling me off, but then I see my brother’s name flash across the screen. It’s Royce. The phone buzzes again. Two texts? Royce never texts me this late at night.
I’m afraid to look. Something bad might have happened.
ROYCE: Don’t ever fall in love.
ROYCE: It’s not worth it.